Whether it’s Disney, Pixar, or Studio Ghibli, feature length animated films can be at once breathtaking and sublime. There is a sub-genre, however, which receives less attention. Animated shorts have found a new audience since the advent of the internet, but many may still be unaware of their charms. To correct this, here’s a list of 40 wonderful animated short films to send you to a new realm of creative discovery.
We start things off with one of Pixar’s many brilliant short animations. This plays on the fairy tale of storks delivering children to waiting parents. Written and directed by Peter Sohn, it was shown to cinemagoers in 2009 before the feature film Up.
A melancholic tale of a kiwi who desires to fly. The creature has varied success with his attempts, and there’s an ambiguous ending, but there’s a certain poignancy to the story.
Ex-Pixar animator Rodrigo Blaas developed this 2009 animation. Another melancholic effort, it is nonetheless beautifully animated. It follows a child walking around Barcelona – “alma” meaning soul in Spanish, it reflects the maudlin nature of the film.
“A love story from the world of gears and bolts”, this 2010 animation boasts remarkable animation. It consists of a bolt man who doesn’t quite understand how his world works.
Walt Disney’s influential 1928 cartoon involved a certain Mickey Mouse. It was the first cartoon to feature fully synchronized sound, but Disney himself assisted with the animation. It’s also the source of parodies, as The Simpsons famously lampooned the cartoon with their Itchy & Scratchy characters.
Essentially a film about tadpoles searching for their mother, Te Wei’s 1960 animation has since been construed as an allegory of a particularly time in Chinese history. It’s worth noting, however, the animation is beautiful.
Animation specialist Sylvain Chomet began work on this short film in 1991, finishing it circa 1996. In 1997 it won the grand prize at the Annecy Animated Film Festival. Its success paved the way for critically acclaimed feature films such as Bellville Rendezvous and The Illusionist.
Alfred Image Work’s amusing short about an incredibly lazy delivery man in the future. It’s a mildly melancholic, darkly humorous look at the potential future of delivery services.
In 2013 the BBC’s flagship movie review show, hosted by Dr. Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo, held a nationwide competition for short films. Philip Childwell’s charming Pong won the competition, based around a ping pong ball whom heads on an adventure.
Independent animator Moo-hyun Jang’s take on a familiar concept for all of us – our respective alarms waking us up in the morning.
11. French Roast
Oscar nominated for Best Short Film in 2009, Fabrice O. Jubert (formerly of DreamWorks) displays a high flying businessman running into a sport of bother in a café.
Christopher Kazelos’ stop animation film won numerous awards. This includes “Best Animation” from the LA Shorts Festival. The plot centres around a love story, with concepts such as discrimination also breaches.
13. Geri’s Game
More Pixar based fun as Geri, an ageing gentleman enjoying a game of chess, takes himself on. It won an Oscar in 1997 for Best Animated Short.
The adorable Minions from the popular Despicable Me feature films have spawned several animated shorts. In this one, two Minions bicker pointlessly about a banana.
This 2003 animated short was Oscar nominated. It features the squirrel Scrat from the Ice Age series; he is infatuated with an acorn and destructively anarchic in his attempts to bury it.
This 2007 Russian short film was nominated for an Oscar in 2008. Konstantin Bronzit directed, and it depicts the life of a lavatory attendant receiving a pleasant surprise.
17. Harvie Krumpet
Adam Elliot (who later developed the excellent Mary and Max for 2009) directed this tale of Harvie who, despite his troubles, enjoys the simple pleasures of life. It won an Oscar in 2003.
Winner of an Oscar in 2002, this was an effort by Sony Pictures Imageworks to determine their strengths in computer animation. It follows Meeper, a janitor of an alien pub, whose efforts to do good backfire somewhat.
19. For The Birds
Another fine effort from Pixar, who won an Oscar in 2001 thanks to their effort. Typically charming, it features a set of birds attempting to make themselves comfortable on a telephone wire.
A Dutch animation from 2000 by Michael Dudok de Wit. It bagged an Oscar and some 20 other awards, and it follows the life of a young girl who wonders about her estranged father over many seasons.
21. Bob’s Birthday
From 1993 we find Bob enjoying his birthday. A cute animation, Bob begins to wonder if his dentistry career isn’t what he wanted.
22. A Close Shave
Nick Park’s enduring classic from 1995 follows Wallace and Gromit on a new adventure. Park took his skills to a new level with this story, introducing Shaun the Sheep to the world.
Based on Ernest Hemingway’s classic novella. Its unique style, which is paint-on-glass animation, takes the story’s classic themes and adds new life. Worthy of the Nobel Prize winning author.
24. Tin Toy
Pixar showing off their skills once again, this time back in 1988. An Oscar winner, its pioneering animation paced the way for the likes of smash hits such as Toy Story. It depicts a young child at play with a toy.
Here’s another fine Oscar winner from 1987. Featuring sensational animation, it’s based on Jean Gioni’s eponymous story. It tells the tale of a shepherd’s attempts to re-forest a featureless valley.
Released in 1989, and winner of an Oscar in the same year, Balance is a unique tale which is set in what appears to be a dystopian future. A set of numbered men begin to, essentially, mess around in their environment as they discover the joy of having fun.
Contemporary fair now from Anton Chistiakov and Mikhail Dmitriev. Bibo is a poignant story about a lonely robot whom invents a luxurious world to ignore the severe nature of reality.
Nick Parks’ engaging 1990 Oscar winner which began a highly popular series. It follows creatures in a zoo who are interviewed about their experiences.
Nick Park won another Oscar for this superb Claymation film – by 1993 his mastery of the style was renowned. The Wrong Trousers follows Wallace and Gromit through another adventure, with a devious penguin taking advantage of Wallace’s inventive spree.
Blue Sky Studio’s Oscar winner from 1998, Bunny follows an evening in the life of the eponymous female rabbit. She is bothered by a persistent moth in her home, which leads the way to a fantastical experience.
31. Story Time
Terry Gilliam transformed the surreal Monty Python’s Flying Circus into a show of utter madness. His unusual use of cutout animation was unique at the time (the late 1960s), and paved the way towards his career as a director. Story Time itself begins around the life of Don the Cockroach, but quickly spirals into mayhem.
32. Mr. Hublot
Contemporary animation with the 2014 Oscar winner by Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares. The story is set around the eponymous protagonist, who appears to suffer from OCD. His daily routine is shattered by the arrival of a new pet.
This was Disney’s first Best Animated Short Oscar (which it won in 2013) since 1970. This beautifully looking tale blends traditional animation with modern technology. It tells the story of George, an accountant, whose paper plane making habits are an attempt to woo the woman of his dreams.
34. Strange Invaders
Cordell Barker’s loveably bizarre 2002 animation about a quiet couple whose lives are turned upside down by the sudden arrival of a child.
More animated excellence from Pixar, who were Oscar nominated again for this effort. From 2003, this time we follow the life of a sheep who is coveted amongst his peers for his excellent dancing skills.
36. Das Rad
Stop motion from Germany’s Chris Stenner, Arvid Uibel and Heidi Wittlinger. Oscar nominated in 2002, this inventive short tracks a hillside and a couple of sentient rocks from ancient times to the future.
Chris Landerth’s tribute to Ryan Larkin (an influential Canadian animator). Released in 2004, it won some 60 awards (including an Oscar) for its unique style and emotional depth. Although it appears to use modern live action footage, rotoscoping, or motional capture, none of these techniques were used. It is entirely hand drawn.
38. One Man Band
Pixar again prove their short animation expertise with a jaunty Oscar nominated film. Unusually, One Man Band is completely free of dialogue; it follows the exploits of two competing musicians fighting for a customer’s money.
39. The Danish Poet
Inspiring Oscar winning animation from Torill Kove in 2006. The story follows the exploits of Kaspar Jørgensen as he travels to Norway to meet an acclaimed writer. A bittersweet tale ensues, taking in themes such as love, loss, and the nature of life.
A French short from Samuel Tourneux, nominated for an Oscar in 2007. Distinctly French in tone and style, it is also darkly humorous in its playfully melancholic nature. It follows the elderly Mr. Moulin as he is duped out of his savings, only for an unusual turn of events to play out.
Featured photo credit: Aardman Wallace and Gromit – Jordanhill School and D&T Dept via flickr.com